One thing I hear a lot when talking with people about zero waste is:
“I don’t have the time to start doing all these things”.
And while I don’t blame anyone for thinking/saying that, I want to push back a little bit.
It really doesn’t take that much extra time to implement many waste-reducing efforts. In fact, I came up with 12 that we did to help us reduce our overall waste by 40lbs A WEEK – that took us 5 minutes or less!
This post is great if you’re a beginner, feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting, or just want to make sure you’re doing as many waste-reducing efforts as possible.
I’m willing to bet that after you do these 12 items, you’ll want to start doing even more!
And remember, by reducing waste, you’ll be giving yourself room for the things you really love any enjoy.
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Which leads into the next part….the resources you can use (that on their own will take very little time) that will help you start to reduce waste:
- Waste Audit: Do an internal waste audit of all your garbage and recycling cans to see what is in them. Knowing what you and/or your family throw out is the first step in knowing where to start reducing! Lucky for you, I created a waste audit worksheet that you can use to do your audit. Find it here. Once you’ve done the waste audit, I would recommend joining my Facebook group – the Trash Talkers. In the group, you can post your trash audit results and get feedback from me and others about what ‘next steps’ to take!
2. Organic Recycling: Call your waste provider and see if they offer organic recycling. This is an easy way to reduce what goes in the trash, without having to worry about composting yourself if that is not your thing.
3. Food waste: create an ‘eat me now’ area in your fridge if you have lots of leftovers or trouble remembering to eat leftovers. You can also use this area for produce or dairy products that may be approaching their expiration (we plan on doing this!).
4. Food placement in the fridge: While we are also on the topic of the fridge, check out this infographic that talks about different areas of the fridge that are best for specific foods. Make sure you are prolonging your food items that you BUY as long as possible.
A screenshot of the infographic from Lifehacker.com Click here for full version.
5. Reusable napkins/tissues/non-paper towels: Make the switch to reusable napkins or paper towels. Quick, inexpensive and easy! You can use what you already have at home by cutting up old cloths, clothes, or rags, find some secondhand or through friends/family, or by checking out this post which talks about some of our favorite zero waste products. The photo below shows some facial tissues I cut up from an old cotton shirt.
6. Reusable Bags: Add a small sign by your front door and in your car to remind yourself to bring your reusable bags while out shopping! In addition to reusable bags, our family also loves these reusable mesh produce bags. Psst…I created a printable that you can print out and put up in your car or by your front door to remember your bags. Find it here.
7. Recycle Plastic Bags: Save plastic bags and bring them to a store that will recycle them (or at least send them out for recycling). In our area, Target, most grocery stores, and many nature centers now accept plastic bags for recycling. In addition, in Minnesota, plastic wrap and ziplock bags (and most other ‘stretchy’ plastics) can be recycled with the plastic shopping bags! Check with your county to see if this is true in your area.
8. Plastic bottle caps: Did you know plastic bottle caps and metal beer caps usually end up in the trash, even if they are recycled (this was news to us)? This is because, during the recycling sorting process, the caps are too small to be detected by the machines. To help combat this, put metal caps into another recycled metal container (such as a soup can). Same with plastic tops.
9. Waste Bins: Put small waste bins in every room that you have a trash can in (for example the bathroom and laundry room). Label the small bins with recycling, organics (in our area, facial tissues and toilet paper tubes can be considered organics), and waste. You are much more likely to dispose of your waste in the proper bin if you have one handy.
10. DIY Cleaners: Make your own green cleaning recipes. Not only does it produce less waste, they are non-toxic, easy to make, and environmentally and budget friendly! Check out my Pinterest board for tons of recipes and tips. We have been making floor cleaner for a while (it honestly takes about 1 minute to whip up) but we look forward to start making some other types of cleaner!
11. Reduce junk mail: I talk about this in my post on reducing paper clutter as something my family implemented to help combat paper clutter. Did you know the average American gets 26 lbs of unwanted junk mail each year? Here are some ways to reduce that number!*
- Contact companies directly and ask to be removed
- Credit Card Offers- visit Optoutprescreen.com
- Mail list brokers and marketing associations – visit dmachoice.org
- National mailers (coupons) visit – Red Plum, ShopWi$e, Val-Pak Direct Marketing System, Money Mailer, LLC
- Phone Books – yellowpagesoptout.com
- Catalog Mailers – catalogchoice.org, or by contacting the company directly
- Sweepstakes mailers – Publishers Clearinghouse, Readers Digest (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Any providers that you pay bills to/bill statements – While this may not be considered junk, most companies offer paper free communications through email or your account on their website. Visit each company’s website and enroll.
- US Postal Service – Misaddressed mail – Contact your post office and/or usps.gov for any mail for former residents
If you are looking for even more ways to reduce junk waste, check out this post all on this topic by Amy French at The Good Life.
*Source: Hennepin County info sheet
12. Local Green Guide: Have a question on what can be recycled, composted, dropped off or trashed in your city/county? Check to see if your city/county/trash provider provides a ‘green guide’. Our county provides a Green Disposal Guide which gives us information on almost anything we would want to dispose of, and also provides a search option where we can type in an item to see if it can be recycled, composted, or trash.
I hope this post has given you a little inspiration and/or confidence to help start taking steps to reduce waste. Remember that we all start somewhere, and that is a great thing. We are all learning as we go. SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS. Do what you can with the resources you have, which is what my family is doing!
Which, if any, items do you think you could implement into your life? What resources am I missing that you do on a daily basis? I’d love to hear of any!
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